Roundhouse revealed at Bamburgh Castle

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Part of the curving foundations of the roundhouse were revealed beneath an early medieval mortar mixer. CREDIT: Bamburgh Research Project

Excavations within the West Ward of Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland have revealed the partial foundations of what appears to have been a substantial roundhouse. Based on its stratigraphy, it is thought to be late Romano- British, but could potentially be earlier in date – further post-excavation analyses will aim to confirm this.

Carried out as part of the Bamburgh Research Project (see CA 237), the roundhouse was uncovered during the final stages of the excavation – due to the importance of this discovery, however, digging was extended by a week in order to explore it further. While only a small arc of the building was revealed, it is estimated to have been roughly 9-10m in diameter. In addition to the foundations, some of the floor surfaces appear to have survived – which is rare for this part of Britain – along with some crude pottery sherds, periwinkle shells, and an unusual stone feature just within the walls of the building. The end of one of the walls was also discovered and, since the floor material stops here as well, the team suspect that this was the entrance, facing south-west.

While this is not the first evidence for Roman or Iron Age occupation at Bamburgh – small amounts of animal bone and pottery sherds from these periods had previously been discovered during Brian Hope- Taylor’s excavation of the site in the 1960s – this is the first substantial piece of evidence for the continued use of this site from prehistory through to the medieval period. Its large size indicates that it was possibly a building of some note, but its position in the low-lying West Ward suggests that this could be just one of many roundhouses that may have extended up to the top of the hill in what is now the Inner Ward.

The dig also revealed other aspects of the castle’s history. Earlier on in the excavation, the team found evidence of an early medieval building, unearthing 11 post-holes forming an L-shape. They suspect that it is the partial remains of a timber building, possibly dating to either the 6th century or 7th century AD.

Updates about the excavation and other work being carried out by the Bamburgh Research Project can be found at

This news article appears in issue 369 of Current Archaeology. To find out more about subscribing to the magazine, click here.

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